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Lars Bäckman

Lars Bäckman is af Jochnick Professor in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging at the Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences. He has published several books and around 400 papers in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. Bäckman´s primary research area is cognition in normal and pathological aging, with special focus on memory. The research activities range from large-scale epidemiological studies to experimental brain-imaging work. Major current themes include sources of individual differences in cognitive aging, the transition from normal aging to dementia, the neural basis of cognitive plasticity across the life span, and the role of dopamine functions in cognitive aging. His work has been cited around 17 000 times and his current h index is 68.

Aging and Memory: How to Foster Successful Functioning in Old Age

Although some forms of memory (semantic memory, procedural memory) are well preserved into old age, others (episodic memory, working memory) typically decline in aging. Nevertheless, large-scale population-based studies document well-preserved functioning also for episodic and working memory in some older individuals. The influential ‘reserve’ notion holds that individual differences in brain characteristics or in the manner people process tasks allow some individuals to cope better than others with brain pathology and hence show preserved memory performance. I will introduce a complementary concept, that of brain maintenance (or relative lack of brain pathology), and argue that it constitutes a primary determinant of successful memory aging. I discuss evidence for brain maintenance at different levels: cellular, neurochemical, gray- and white-matter integrity, and systems-level activation patterns. Various genetic and lifestyle factors support brain maintenance in aging and interventions may be designed to promote maintenance of brain structure and function in late life.

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